They’re solid, reliable and unchanging, these bastions of the bathroom, these lords of the loo — but your home’s toilets are not infallible and they don’t last forever. Here are ten ways to know when it’s time to move beyond basic repair and take the step of replacing the entire unit.

1. It’s old enough to vote.

According to the Energy Policy Act of 1992, any toilets installed before 1994 that use more than 1.6 gallons per flush must be replaced. Toilets made before this date usually used between 3.5 and 5 gallons per flush. And that’s a significant difference in your water bill, particularly for larger families.

However, that’s not the only reason you should consider replacing an aging toilet. They’re also more prone to any or all of the following issues that could require replacement.

2. The Puddle Producer

Unsourced puddles of water should never go ignored in your bathroom, and particularly not around the toilet. One common source is the development of hairline cracks in the toilet tank or bowl, and where the crack develops determines whether it can be repaired. If it’s below the water line, you’ll likely need a new fixture.

Examine both the inside and outside of the toilet, but don’t be discouraged if you can’t see anything; hairline cracks are as good as invisible. Whether you find a visible crack or not, if the puddles continue, call a licensed plumber to do a thorough inspection. You don’t want the crack to break open suddenly or to ruin your floor over time.

3. The Rocking Chair

An unsteady toilet should be reason enough to call a plumber, as the wobble could indicate a serious problem like floor rot or other water damage. The plumber may be able to just tighten the bolts or do other repairs, but be aware the entire unit may be need to be replaced.

4. The Marathon Toilet

You know what we mean — it never stops running. This not only means you’re wasting a lot of water, but that something has gone wrong in the toilet’s inner workings. Common fixes like replacing the flapper valve often solve the problem, but your toilet could have other issues like a broken fill valve inside the tank. A professional will be able to quickly diagnose the problem and recommend a course of action.

5. The Non-Flusher

When the handle jiggle no longer works and neither does the plunger, your toilet is flat-out broken – and that’s a serious problem. Don’t make it worse by poking around in the unit with various tools or devices. Call a plumber to rule out other plumbing issues, but be aware that a non-flushing toilet usually requires replacement.

6. The Frequent Clogger

Some older toilets, or early water-saving toilets, do require more than one flush and are often susceptible to random clogs. However, if you’re plunging every other day and it’s not due to preventable human activities, this could indicate a serious problem within your toilet. Again, don’t go fishing about inside your plumbing; take the hint and call a professional. The first thing to be determined is if the clog is being caused by something further down the line, and if so, fix that issue. However, if there are no extenuating circumstances, you may just decide it’s time for a new toilet. This decision could be made easier by knowing that the design and efficiency of low-flush toilets has improved greatly in recent years.

7. Your water bill has gone up recently.

Just as an overall observation, if you notice your water bill has mysteriously gone up, don’t procrastinate – the problem is not going to fix itself. Do a thorough search inside and outside of your home. If no leak is immediately found, understand that a leaking toilet can go through a surprising amount of water. These leaks are often fixable with inexpensive parts that are easy to replace. However, as noted above, undiscovered toilet leaks can damage flooring and subflooring and cause damage to rooms below. Don’t run any of the risks. Call us immediately.

8. You’re turning into an amateur plumber.

You wouldn’t know it to look at that gleaming exterior, but toilets have around 12 different working parts. Those bits all have different natural life spans – particularly in areas with hard water, where dissolved minerals can collect in inlet areas and tubes and render your toilet inefficient.

You can of course do most of these fixes yourself, but how much is your personal time (and energy) worth? Just how many trips do you want to make in one weekend to your local big-box hardware store? It’s much more efficient to call an expert to determine which parts need replacing, which parts will soon need replacing, what needs to be done to address any hard-water buildup, and perhaps whether you even need to replace the whole thing (particularly if your toilet suffers from any of the other problems listed here).

9. You can’t get it clean.

Porcelain isn’t indestructible. As the toilet’s surface gets worn or scratched, particularly on an old unit that has been cleaned many times, you will find it’s harder and harder to keep it clean. A toilet that looks dirty and worn actually IS dirty and worn – so it may be time to save yourself the hassle and health risk and upgrade your unit.

dual flush

10. You’re going green.

As referenced above, a more environmentally friendly low-flush toilet uses at least half the water of a traditional toilet, which can really make a difference in your water bill. Consider a unit with a dual-flush feature that uses a “mini flush” for liquid waste and a full flush for solid waste. This maximizes your savings both in water use and utility costs while still providing a satisfactory experience.

Call Your Neighborhood Plumbing Professionals

At Horizon, our licensed plumbers have been fixing toilet clogs and stoppages for more 30 years; in that time we’ve provided more than 25,000 homes across Dallas/Fort Worth with general plumbing services. If your toilet troubles are too big to handle, schedule one of our free service calls at your convenience. We even offer annual maintenance plans to ensure all of your water dependent fixtures continue to run smoothly, which can prevent costly repairs in the future.

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